THE BOTTOM-LINE SCOOP: TOOTHPASTE IS NOT SOAP.
There. Now you know. The truth is: you would do just fine without toothpaste at all.You don’t need it.
What? We don’t need it? That’s right.
Plaque (“biofilm”) is sticky. Think of peanut butter on a knife. Think about getting peanut butter off of a knife. You can rinse it in water, smear soap on it, blast it with high-pressure water, and swish it through an anti-peanut butter preparation – and still have peanut butter on that knife. These actions, of course, are analogous to rinsing your mouth out, smearing toothpaste across your teeth, using an oral irrigator, and using mouthwash.
The most effective way to remove sticky biofilm (and peanut butter) is to scrape it off. That is best accomplished with a toothbrush and floss (tooth brushing reaches about 70% of tooth surfaces). Think back to how great your teeth felt as you were leaving my office – so smooth and “slick”. Run your tongue over your teeth right now. Do you feel some “rough” spots? That’s plaque. About once a week or so, take your dry toothbrush (no toothpaste, no water) and brush along your gumlines in tiny, gentle circles. Check with your tongue again. Those “rough” spots usually go away. That means your toothbrush has reached the areas previously missed. Then put a small smear of toothpaste on your brush and brush your tongue with it. This is the best in-between professional cleaning spiff-up you can do.
So – Why do we have toothpaste? Why use it?
There are 3 primary reasons to use toothpaste.
1 – It tastes good. Toothpaste has mint or some other flavoring that freshens breath and leaves a pleasant, fresh taste in our mouths. In fact, that pleasant, fresh taste can shut down sugar cravings. Sometime when you are craving sweets, go brush your teeth and tongue (with toothpaste). See if it works for you!
2 – Most toothpaste contains fluoride, and topical fluoride treatments help keep tooth enamel hard and cavity-resistant. (The fluoride in water controversy will be addressed in a future article.)
3 – Specialty toothpaste help special needs. Specifically, sensitive teeth, whitening, early tooth decay, and gum disease issues.
Toothpaste for sensitive teeth is highly appreciated by people who have this issue.
Whitening toothpastes help to control coffee and tea stains and may prolong the effects of professional whitening.
I sometimes recommend toothpastes such as Arm & Hammer’s® EnamelCare™ with ACP (Amorphous Calcium Phosphate). Studies have shown that ACP re-mineralizes tooth enamel. That means that small or beginning cavities may “heal” and not grow into something that needs a filling. Now, where was ACP when we were kids? Sensodyne’s Pronamel is another one.
For people with gum disease issues, a couple of herbal blends have gained my respect. I like Auromere, an Ayurvedic herbal blend in toothpaste form. I’ve seen some dramatic turn-arounds with this toothpaste. I’m also a fan of Dental Herb Company’s Tooth & Gum Tonic. Refreshing and restorative.
How much should I use?
Those TV toothpaste commercials really pour it on, balancing a twisted figure-8 blob of toothpaste on top of a toothbrush. As is typical of TV ads, it encourages wasteful consumption! A small pea-sized amount of toothpaste is plenty.
A closing word about toothpaste and mouth sores. If you have frequent break-outs of canker sores, you may hold your toothpaste suspect. Many people are sensitive to the foaming agent in it, called Sodium Laureth (or Lauryl) Sulfate, or SLS. Try Tom’s of Maine, available in stores, or Glister, available from Amway Global, the herbal toothpastes mentioned above, or any other toothpaste that doesn’t have SLS.
So now you know. Toothpaste is not necessary, but it is nice. Select one that you like or one that addresses a special need you have. Use it knowing that it is your excellent brushing technique, and not the toothpaste, that is removing plaque and keeping your gums healthy!